Spotting Kidney Injury Early

Researchers identify biomarker for early detection of acute kidney injury

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The sooner doctors can spot kidney injury, the sooner they can help patients deal with the condition. Researchers have found a new way to spot kidney injury earlier, which may save lives and lead to better results for patients.

Researchers found that a certain protein in a person's urine or blood is an early sign of acute kidney injury. What's more, patients who have the protein in their urine or blood have a much higher risk of bad results from their condition.

"Doctors have a new and improved way to spot kidney injury."

In their study, testing for the protein - called neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) - was able to detect kidney injury, while the current "gold standard" for detecting kidney injury found no signs of the condition.

According to study author Prasad Devarajan, M.D., director of Nephrology and Hypertension at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, this study describes a biomarker (NGAL) of acute kidney injury that is substantially better than the current marker of serum creatinine.

The study's results suggest that testing for NGAL may let doctors treat patients sooner, thus improving outcomes for those patients, the authors write.

As acute kidney injury affects around 30 percent of all critically ill patients, these findings have huge implications, says Dr. Devarajan.

In Depth

For their study, the researchers looked at data from more than 2,300 critically ill adults and children, most of whom had kidney injury as a result of heart dysfunction - a condition known as type 1 cardiorenal syndrome.

The researchers found that:

  • 40 percent of patients showed early increases in of NGAL levels in their urine or blood, while they showed no increases in serum creatinine levels
  • Patients who tested positive for NGAL were 16 times more likely to need dialysis
  • NGAL-positive patients were three times more likely to die while in the hospital
  • NGAL-positive patients spent an average of three days longer in intensive care and eight days longer in the hospital
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Review Date: 
April 19, 2011
Last Updated:
April 21, 2011